Memphis-based filmmaker Kentucker Audley’s second film of 2010 (the other is Holy Land) is an exquisitely crafted, intimate slice-of-life glance into the stagnant world of Jake (played by Jake Rabinbach), a Memphis-based musician whose band and personal relationship seem to be suffering the same static fate. After meeting Lucy (Shannon Esper) in Brooklyn, Jake invites her back to Memphis for a weekend getaway. When she and her friend Rose (Genevieve Angelson) arrive, nothing goes as planned, and love doesn’t blossom so much as it chokes on indecision. Attraction is in the air, but Jake and Lucy can’t seem to get past their own personal hang-ups (whether it is his slacker-ish ambivalence or her indecisiveness towards a long-distance relationship).
Unabashedly earnest in its depiction of late-20s/early 30s languor, Open Five smartly relies on reticence and leaves so many of the characters’ thoughts unspoken. On a certain level, it is uncertain if the characters ever really solidify their feelings or even begin to understand them. On her first night in Memphis, Lucy awkwardly (but obviously) evades Jake’s invitation to sleep in his bed by offering to crash in the living room with Rose. But when Jake later confronts her about it, she seemingly happily agrees to join him. It is the beginning (and far from the end) of their emotional ping-pong game.
Open Five was shot by Alexander the Last director Joe Swanberg, and while both films share a certain tendency towards naturalistic acting, Audley and Swanberg each have their own thing going for them, and their styles don’t overlap. Whereas Alexander the Last featured emotionally piercing dialogue from its characters, Open Five favors hesitancy and spot-on imprecision. At a party, Rose clumsily leaves a conversation by saying to two people, “Good luck on your job, and good luck finding one.” We see her searching and failing for a graceful exit—the sort of moment we all beat ourselves up over the next morning. Later, Lucy will try to explain to Jake her resistance to reigniting their relationship by saying, “It just feels different,” while he implores that, “I’m just trying to understand.” Neither can elaborate beyond those basic expressions, but the simplicity of their words makes them resonate all the more.
Tightly edited to 66 minutes, Open Five has the epic intimacy of weekend nights that seem to stretch beyond the actual brevity of time. Its strong core cast of Rabinbach, Esper, Angelson, and Audley himself (who plays one of Jake’s friends who happens to be a filmmaker) hits all the right notes at all the right times. It is another success for director Audley, whose debut film, Team Picture (available on DVD from Benten Films), earned him a spot on Filmmaker Magazine’s 2007 list of “25 New Faces of Independent Film.”
— Cullen Gallagher